I missed a few days of Lenten posts because I had to dig out at 6 am to go to photography school at the rookery at Gatorland in Orlando on Saturday and Sunday. Photographer Robert Amoruso (click for some great photographs http://www.wildscapeimages.biz/) combined the experience of shooting photos with classroom instruction. I learned a lot and am humbled to know I still need to learn a whole lot more. You will see some of the fruits of my labors in the coming weeks.
Anyway, back to Holy Week. A week in which Jesus the Christ was crucified like a common criminal is called “Holy.” Could it also be called Shame Week because the Jews and Romans refused to hear Jesus’ message?
The message as stated in Isaiah is quite clear—JUSTICE. Reestablish right order in the cosmos and in human relationships. Now 2000 years down the road, we too want to run away from Jesus’ true teaching. Jesus has become a plastic Jesus as in Cool Hand Luke, “I don’t care if it rains or freezes just give me my plastic Jesus.” We tend to use Jesus to protect all that we cherish in life—money, security, power or whatever else tickles our fancy. We think Jesus is calling us to worship him when he is calling us to follow him.
I am sure Paul Ryan and his supporters will grab the “the poor you will always have with you” out of context. They will say, “See, even Jesus, knew that there will always be poor people and that is the way it is.” They miss the message about justice—liberating captives, setting prisoners free, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, educating the masses, and providing adequate health care. Seeking justice means that we, as followers of the Risen Christ and as the Risen Christ, have a responsibility to work toward eradication of the structures which bless the few while cursing the many. Coin-servatives always chide progressives about throwing money at problems. That is exactly what we are doing if we do not work to eliminate the social and economic structures which perpetuate inequality and poverty. Not every person will have the same stuff but all will have greater access to the bounty of God’s creation.
Some will say this is all about politics and not religion. Jesus’ crucifixion was all about politics. The crowds were starting to follow him. Lazarus had been raised from the dead. The Romans knew full well what Jesus was proclaiming. When Pilate heard about Jesus’ street theater ride on a donkey at the other side of town, he knew full well that Jesus was confronting the Roman system of domination and taxation—systems which were keeping the masses in poverty and oppression. He dared not have a man who spoke truth to power stirring up anything else.
Crucifixion is all about shame. The Romans were accustomed to lining the roads with crucified “criminals.” The message was clear—“don’t mess with Rome! Don’t disrupt our comfort systems. If you do, you will be hanging on a cross too.” Forget all the saccharine pictures and crucifixes with a partially clothed Jesus hanging in “glory.” No, it was about shame. The victim hanged on the cross totally naked. The victim slowly suffocated to death. The victim suffered hours of agony. Once the victim died vultures would pick the carcass clean. The remains would be thrown over the city wall into the garbage pit.
Jesus suffered this shame, excruciating pain and total humiliation (not to pay back his Father for our sins—Anselm got it wrong) to show us how to give our all for justice for all.
The rest of the story is that we now are the Risen Christ. Our responsibility as followers and disciples is to work for just social and economic structures. This means getting involved in the politics of the day and speaking truth to power. Listen to Isaiah:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.